Celebrate our Constitution

My Thoughts

Dr. Bill AtwoodSeptember 6, 2012 

It had to be as difficult as herding cats. Governing our new nation of 13 states was not going well and the Articles of Confederation were proving to be unworkable. Any changes in those Articles required a unanimous vote meaning that any one states delegation had a veto power over the rest of the nation. The articles gave no ability to tax to the federal government which made that government solely dependent upon the states. A new set of rules was required, and soon.

On May 14, 1787 a convention was convened in the same hall as the Declaration of Independence was ratified. It has become known as the Constitutional Convention. The delegations were gathered but travel and time made for a constant flow of delegates into and out of the proceedings.

James Madison is seen by historians as the father of the Constitution but it was George Washington who was elected by the delegates to serve as the president of the convention. His integrity would help sell the Constitution to the masses.

The proposals came and went and the debate carried on over the entire muggy summer months of 1787. Discussions of federal powers and states rights along with debates over slavery and commerce as well as contract laws were discussed.

The makeup of the government was argued and it finally came to pass as a compromise to have a bi-cameral legislature with a House of Representatives serving two-year terms and a Senate serving six-year terms. The House would be dictated by population giving a political edge to more populous states and the Senate with two senators per-state allowing each to be equal. An executive would be elected for a four-year term and there would be a court established to settle disputes between the states.

The Electoral College was established and rules set to reach a conclusion should a man not garner enough votes to be elected as president.

Slavery was a major issue that ended with a tough compromise for all parties. Many delegates were opposed to slavery but almost half of the delegates were slave owners and the South depended on slavery for farming.

The 3/5ths compromise allowed for slaves to be counted as part of the population for apportionment reasons as it would benefit the Southern states in the House and it satisfied the Northerners who felt slaves shouldn't be counted as they were not considered free citizens. The anti-slavery crowd realized quickly that if they insisted on banning slavery from the outset there never would have been a Constitution so they opted to place it on a back burner for another day.

There were demands for a listing of rights and the convention agreed to amend the Constitution after ratification of the Constitution. The delegates established how amendments were to be made to the Constitution making it difficult enough to avoid quick faddish changes but easy enough when necessary.

One thing that comes down to us from the Founding Fathers and the Constitution they drafted was the acceptance of the core belief written in the Declaration of Independence that rights of citizens were ordained and granted by God. That governments were instituted to do the work of the people in areas that require such actions. Those areas being defense, roads, postal service, courts, and other infra-structure needs.

The Constitution was ratified on Sept. 17, 1787 and became the law of the land. The Bill of Rights did not become ratified until Dec. 15, 1791. Those amendments clearly stated that the Constitution was designed to limit the power of the federal government. That was the clear intent of those who drafted and created our supreme law. Limited government. Clearly these men had lived under the control of a government that held all the power and granted some privileges to the subjects of the monarch.

Our Constitution promotes the concept that the people and the states hold the power and grant the federal government certain powers to conduct business. Churches were very involved in politics and any notion of the separation of church and state, which is not written in the Constitution, was to keep the government out of the affairs of the churches and not to keep the church out of politics.

The Constitution wasn't written without flaws and clearly has needed some changes over the years. Those 27 changes have come in the form of amendments following the process outlined within the Constitution itself of how to make those changes.

However, the basic concept and the original intent of a limited federal government is the basis of the Constitution.

Celebrate our Constitution on the 17th.

We the People!

The Sierra Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service